Tag Archives: Francis Ford Coppola

Celebrity Winemakers: Star Studded Labels

The trend of celebrities owning wineries or lending their name to a wine isn’t new but it seems more and more are investing time and money into the vine.  After reading that Hollywood’s power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be releasing a new wine called Miraval from their French Chateau next month I was curious about who else with a famous moniker was putting their face or name on a label.

When it comes to Canadian celebrities there’s a couple that have been around for a while along with some newer additions. There’s golfer Mike Weir who in the spring of 2005 launched Mike Weir Estate Winery, actor Dan Aykroyd who in partnership with Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits launched his wine in 2007, and of course the great one; hockey legend Wayne Gretzky whose wines you’ll find both at the LCBO and online. The latest addition of famous Canadians getting into the wine business is of course Mr. Wonderful, billionaire investment guru Kevin O’Leary.  But whether or not they’re actually involved in the wine making process or just broadening their brand they’re definitely helping to bring recognition to Ontario wines around the world.

Some celebrities actually come from families with a long history of winemaking like director Francis Ford Coppola whose grandfather Agostino Coppola, used to make wine in the basement of his New York apartment building.  Now, the man behind the famous Godfather trilogy is also directing things behind the scenes at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Steve & Francis Ford CoppolaLis and her husband Steve had a chance to visit the winery and she says driving through the gates is like entering the Disneyland of Sonoma.  Wine lovers, film geeks and and day trippers languish on lounge chairs surrounding the pool. Welcome to Casa Coppola where you can rent a Cabana and pool privileges for the day. You can pop inside for a taste of vintage Francis, either at the bar or the museum upstairs. “We took home a couple of  bottles from the Director’s Cut line. Oh, did I mention there was a shop with Mama Coppola’s spices, Francis signature panama hats and other memorabilia?  My husband also got the t-shirt which thankfully he wasn’t wearing when he met his idol at Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco. That was last May. He is still talking about it.”

Then there’s Andrea Bocelli whose family has been making wines for over 130 years, long before the singer became famous for his music.  Now he and his winemaker brother Alberto together run Bocelli Family Wines located in Lajatico, Tuscany, in the province of Pisa.

sam-with-tp-newOthers are wine enthusiasts who start small and somehow their passion becomes more than a hobby.  Such is the case with actor Sam Neill probably best known for his role in Jurassic Park but who may now be even better known for his famously splendid wines.  But combining his two loves he often stars in what he calls microdoodles, short vignettes about winemaking and his beloved winery Two Paddocks in New Zealand.  I had the pleasure of meeting him some years back and have to say his Pinot Noir was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

There’s certainly quite a list of celebrity winemakers but here’s a list that might surprise you:

acdc-wineAC/DC– Turn up the tunes because now you can blast “Highway To Hell” while sipping the Australian rockers Cabernet Sauvignon by the same name. Their other musically inspired wines, include ‘Back in Black’ Shiraz, ‘Thunderstruck’ Chardonnay and ‘Hells Bells’ Sauvignon Blanc.  Produced by Australia’s Warburn Estates it’s recently become available in the US but is not available yet in Canada.

318025_426591957411188_1286107301_nDrew Barrymore – inspired to create a wine in honour of her family.  The multiply award-winning actress is more than just a pretty face and her Pinot Grigio from Italy’s Veneto region is also a winner getting a Gold Medal at the 2012 Sunset International Wine Competition. Her website says she’s a fan of crisp fruity white wines and created this Pinot to reflect her style and personality.  If you were trying to match people to their wine personality I think that’s totally how I would see her.

Emilio Estevez – who together with is wife tend the vines at Casa Dumetz in Los Alamos, California 

Fergie – Not the Duchess but of The Black Eyed Peas who owns a wine label called Ferguson Crest which she started in 2006.  Fergie’s dad is the viticulturist on the 6 acre estate winery and with the help of winemaker Joey Tensley they’ve even created a 2011 vintage called “Fergalicious”.

Sting – the rocker and his wife, Trudie Styler founded Il Palagio more than a decade ago. A beautiful Tuscan villa where they spend every summer they have 3 wines available, “Sister Moon”, “When We Dance” and the one pictured here, “Casino Delle Vie”.  Named after a property on the estate and when translated it means “little house by the roads”.

There’s certainly many more out there and I’m sure the trend will continue. And let’s face it, if I had the resources that Brad and Angelina had I’d own my own French Chateau as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Wine Reads

I’m a big reader – there are always 2-3 (more like 4-5) books on the go on my night table. There are magazines and another couple of books in the bathroom, on the coffee table and always one in my gym bag (sometimes it takes me a little longer to read that one). because I never know when I’ll have a few minutes or 20. After I took a wine class, the need and desire to learn more about what I’m drinking has led to a growing wine collection – not just the text book variety which, I learned the hard way, are always required to weigh at least 10 kgs. Here are some fun and fast  favourites that are worth making their way to a reading spot near you.

Educating Peter

Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert by Lettie Teague

If you love movies and love wine – this book is fun quick read by Lettie Teague who writes a terrific column for the Wall Street Journal. She takes on the challenge of teaching the elements of wine to  Peter Travers (no relation), the long-time film critic for Rolling Stone magazine whose favourite wine is a flabby Chardonnay. This is not wine school. This is a fun ride through varietals, regions, peppered with analogies to movies and movie makers.  It won’t change your life, but it will have you wishing to have Lettie Teague as a teacher when you look at the wines they sampled together – simple little bottles from the $599 Harlan Estate to a $4000 bottle of Screaming Eagle. And where else would you find out what Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese and Peter Jackson pick from the wine list?

Red, White and Drunk All Over

Red, White and Drunk All Over by Natalie Maclean

Now I LOVED this book. Natalie Maclean, Queen of www.nataliemaclean.com,  takes you on a journey of her wine experiences while making you lust after some of her stops along the way. COME ON, she tours Domaine Romanee Conte – which ONLY  produces one of (if not THE) greatest Burgundies of all time with owner Aubert de Villaine. She spends a few days in the fields with one of California’s most colourfull wine makers Randall Grahm – founder of Booy Doon Wines. He describes himself as a vinarchist and  “champion of the ugly-duckling grapes” which is one of the reasons he became known as a Rhone Ranger. And that’s just the first two chapters.  What I really liked about this book, is Maclean’s approachable style.  Each chapter is  a great experience with lots of information thrown in. It is educational – but not dull or intimidating in any way.  Honestly, by a few pages in  you just wanted to be riding shotgun on that adventure.

A Hedonist in the Cellar

A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine by Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney exploded on to the bestseller list (and on to my night table) with Bright Lights, Big City in 1984. Now one of my go-to sites on Saturday morning is the Wall Street Journal where he writes a wine column.  There’s nothing stuffy about this collection of essays from McInerney’s days as a wine columnist for House and Garden magazine.  McInerney blends his extensive wine knowledge with his ability to tell a great story. It’s so well written that there are descriptions imprinted in my memory. Who else would describe  the notoriously difficult Pinot Noir Grape as ” the source of  more heartbreak  and tears than country music radio “?  His essays take you around the world:  from the most modest wine store – where the writer was first exposed to the joy of wine  to a restaurant table  in Italy for a chat with Angelo Gaja – one of the greatest

living wine makers. It’s no wonder Salon has called McInerney,  the best wine writer in the U-S.

So many to choose from

There are so many more great wine books out there. And coming soon will be a few suggestions on books about wine pairings (a couple are still on the night table). But just writing about these ones has made me want to read them all over again!

Good Bubbles for your Buck

Bring on the bubbly

Summer’s definitely the perfect time for something fun and light and it seems everyone is finding a way to add a little fizz to their wine.  Over the last few years Prosecco sales have risen dramatically and it seems wine makers from around the world have taken notice.  On a recent trip to my local LCBO I realized they actually devoted an entire row of sparkling wines and everyone from the Francis Ford Coppola winery in California to the Wolf Blass label in Australia are offering their versions of sparkling wines to get in on the action.  There even seems to be a good selection of rosé sparkling wines.

In fact, in 2011 Prosecco sales rose 50% and this sparkling wine has done a great job in terms of value.  When you look at the average cost of a half decent bottle of champagne coming in at around $70 and the fact you can get a nice bottle of Prosecco for under $15 which one would you choose if you were just looking for a fun drink for a sunny summer’s day?

Lovely to enjoy on its own Prosecco it’s also a great drink to serve with Hors d’oeuvres, antipasta, or seafood.  I actually found one I really enjoy called Il Prosecco and it’s only $11.75.  It reminds me of an old school pop bottle it doesn’t have your regular type of pop cork it but a cap.  The bubbles are lively and it has medium-intensity citrus, pear and melon notes with a dry, light-body and crisp, refreshing taste.

Il Prosecco by Mionetto from Italy

So at this price I say “Bring on the Bubbly”